Arizona’s Tech Motto: You Can Do that!

As a software entrepreneur in Arizona, I’ve been frustrated for some time with the perception both within Arizona and outside of Arizona about whether or not you can build an awesome software company in Arizona. Even more frustrating (and quite frankly, demeaning) is when I hear people say that the “talent doesn’t exist in Arizona.” What a bunch of bullshit!

I have traveled a lot in my life and I’ve lived and worked in San Jose California as well as Raleigh/Durham North Carolina (area known as Research Triangle Park) and I can tell you that I work with some of the most talented people I have met anywhere in the world. And I work with them right here in Scottsdale Arizona.

Moreover, there are some amazing software companies in Arizona. So many that it surprises even the Arizona residents when they see a slide like this:

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of introducing a panel of truly accomplished software entrepreneurs at a local meetup and I wanted to highlight the fact that Arizona is actually home to someĀ real software companies, not just VC backed, forever bleeding startups that help you share your food pictures on 3,895 social networks at the same time, but rather sustainable, profitable and fast-growing software companies that have revenues from their first year and are truly making a difference in the world.

Here is the intro that I did for that panel:

Employee Stock Option Plans Explained

You hear the words “Stock Options” quite frequently, but not everyone knows what they are. It seems that everyone instinctively knows that it’s a good thing to receive stock options from their employer. What you might not know is exactly how stock options work and why most stock options expire worthless.

A couple of days ago, I announced a stock option program that is coming to Axosoft in the near future. With that announcement, I wanted to make sure every Axosoft team member knows what stock options are and how they can benefit from it.

So if you’ve ever wanted to know what stock options are and how they work, check out this video:

Employee Stock Options Explained Video on YouTube

Building a Flat Organization

As founder of Axosoft, one of my goals is to build the type of company that I would love to work at, even if I wasn’t the founder. From the start, I wanted to make sure we have rockstar managers running every department. And we did. For a few years, Axosoft was run by me and several managers, but as the company has continued to grow, I started questioning the value of management (and even me).

I started realizing that when managers fulfill their roles to the natural conclusion, all they would be doing is helping set direction, make calls on the big decisions and doing employee reviews. This is all really important stuff that needs to be done, but what I am increasingly unconvinced about is that managers don’t seem to have any special super magical skills to make them really good at these tasks. On average, managers are equally as smart as any other employee in the organization, but because of their roles, they feel obligated to make the tough calls themselves, sometimes going against the wisdom of their teams or in some cases not even consulting with their teams.

It seems to me that there is an opportunity for companies to eliminate the typical manager roles in favor of agile, self-organizing teams with a flat hierarchy. Of course, this is nothing new. This is how agile software development is done. Yet in most software companies, even those that practice agile development, you still find managers – not managers of products, but managers of people. Managers that have “direct reports.” Why? Because that’s the way it’s done.

Well, not at Axosoft. At least not for the past few years. We have been building a company with a flat hierarchy. One that is doing away with managers. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. There are a lot of challenges to address and there aren’t a lot of case studies that we can turn to for answers. Much of the information that exists on flat orgs is not useful. This is a lot of uncharted territory for us.

Yesterday, we had an all-hands meeting to discuss some of the challenges and questions that come up. I thought the following video might be helpful to others who might also be trying to build a flat company.

Enjoy:

Building a Flat Organization Video on YouTube